Yesterday I had a sudden change of plans (read: cancelled) so decided to wander around Minuteman National Park, a site that can rightly be called the birthplace of America. I was bummed I didn’t bring my old digital camera along, but I always forget the thing (hopefully once I buy that D70 I’ll at least keep it in my car.)
Anyway, in what seemed like a coincidence (as neither of these was planned), I’d also bought Senator Robert Byrd’s new book earlier in the day. First, seeing the bridge over which the colonists first fired their rebellious shots against the British; standing over the walls they hid behind along the old roadway – it was all very moving and a reminder about important innate things like the drive to control one’s own destiny and the power of human courage. It was on this bridge that Colonel James Barrett’s Middlesex militia took shots from British troops, causing them to hesitate briefly as they’d not expected it to come to shots – when Barrett commanded, “Fire! For God’s sake, fire!!” And thus began the American Revolution on April 19, 1775. Thousands of brave colonists who’d had enough had taken up arms to demand freedom from an oppressive crown that offered them no right to self-determination and governance.
Second, reading Senator Byrd’s words on the loss of the American spirit moved me as well. You can quibble with Byrd’s history and politics, but you cannot quibble with his intelligence, oratory skill, and his tremendous respect for the soul of the world’s greatest constitutional republic. I’ve written here in the past that in my darker moments I wonder if we’ve brought the great American Experiment to its end due to our own apathy and ignorance. That is, our own willingness to shop and watch TV (as Mr. Bush suggested we do in the aftermath of 9/11 if we wanted to ‘help’) and let “them” take care of things for us. We now live in a society where civic ignorance is socially acceptable – no longer something to be embarassed or ashamed of – and even the mildest types of civic involvement are considered radical activism. Byrd writes that he offers this book (the implied assumption being it may be a parting offer) as “my attempt to awaken us all before it is too late.” The terrifying irony about America is that we are the nation with the most individual power to affect change, yet we may be the populous who uses it the least.
So, I ask you – read this book and “for God’s sake, fire!”